Urban Crosta- Streeterville ‘s Answer to Gourmet Pizza 

It could be described as a cross between  Chicago and New York style pizzas. But one thing for sure is that  it is truly extraordinary. Located off of the Mag Mile in Streeterville, Urban Crosta is the perfect break from shopping, an evening at the theatre, or just something to pick up on the way home from work. It is located near Hotel  Row and convenient to  Lurie Children’s and Northwestern Medical Centers.  But if you are tired of the conventional and chain pizzas, this is a place that you should definitely check out.

We started out with our usual beverages. Jen had her soda and I pondered the cocktail menu. I found a winner with the Tipsy Tea. It was a mixture of sweet tea vodka, peach puree, lemon juice , and Old Forrester Bourbon. Surprisingly, it had a refreshing taste and the puree countered the whiskey. It was a yummy way to start the meal.

While we were trying to decide on what pizza to have, we nibbled on one of the appetizers. The Spinach Artichoke dip was outstanding.  The chiles gave the dip a little bit of a kick but it was married well with the parmesan cheese . It gave the rather plain dip a sophisticated taste.


 The salads had that gourmet taste as well. They were not just lettuce and veggies, they were truly works of art. The Caesar was garnished with anchovies as well as the requisite croutons and parmesan. My salad was called the Arugula Avocado. The best part of the salad was the citrusy feel combined with the goat cheese and pieces of grapefruit . The salad was drizzled with a balsamic orange vinaigrette. The light taste was a nice overture to the main course. 

Crosta’s spotlight was definitely the pizza and we were happy to find out that they also sell by the slice. Not only that, you can also make your own slice. Perfect for that upcoming holiday shopping.  I had to try their steak chimichurra pizza. The skirt steak was tender and I liked that it that thick thin crust with the kicky taste. Since Jen is Sicilian, to her pizza is sacred and she went with their “build your own’ pizza option. The pizzas are made in stone ovens and that’s what gives it that gourmet taste. She made a pizza with mozzarella, mushrooms, olives, and sausage and everything was so fresh I could smell the mushrooms as we took them home.  

The perfect ending to a meal like this was the perfect dessert and that is exactly what we had . We were treated with a piece of the sweetest and most moist piece of cheesecake and the richest tiramisu . It was the most excellent way to end this Italian eating experience. Brava! To the people at Urban Crosta!

Urban Crosta is located at 355 E Ohio, a block from Lake Shore Drive and a couple blocks from the Mag Mile. They don’t open until 4 but stay open till midnight on Fri and Sat. The rest of the week they are open until ten. It is the perfect rest from the hustle and bustle of the Mag Mile.

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Beautiful Treasures Await You at Mountain Mama Pearls 

There isn’t anything more precious than a jewel from the ocean. When I was a little girl, I can remember going to Sea World in Ohio and watching Asian girls diving to find oysters for the guests . My dad would get one for my mom and then we would watch them open it to find the pearl inside. He usually had it mounted in a ring for her. I always wanted one of my own. Well thanks to Erica at Mama Mountain Pearls, now I do. Erica started the business after attending pearl parties with her mom.  She hails from one of my favorite states, Vermont. She decided to bring this tradition to West Virginia. By starting this company, she hopes to bring those happy memories to others through Pick a Pearl Parties. You don’t even have to strap on a mask or get wet. Just gather a group of gal pals, pour some drinks and watch as the girls open your pearls and then you can have them mounted in any group of beautiful settings. Erica loves to throw these on line parties and there are always giveaways  as well.

Erica was totally awesome and customer friendly. She sent me an oyster and a cage so I could mount the necklace myself. Her directions were so simple and there was minimal mess if you chose to have your oyster sent. It is kind of more fun and your kids will learn about how pearls grow in oysters. With the party, jewelry is sent after it is mounted. I say that they are awesome because my pearl and necklace arrived the day I was flying to NYFW. We were so busy packing , that we misplaced the necklace. I felt so bad , but Erica is so much of a sweetheart that she sent me another necklace free of charge. Most merchants won’t do that , but Erica did. Now I have a beautiful necklace.

For a fun experience or educational one, Mountain Mama Pearls will give you a unique experience you won’t soon forget and you will also have a new stunning piece of jewelry.

Mountainmamapearls.com  

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Gabrielle Union Helps to Tame Frizzies with Flawless

Everyone that has curly hair wants straight and vice versa. One of the biggest problems of the summer is frizzy hair. Take it from someone who had to put a ton of hair spray when she had her senior picture taken. But I was given a gift . I was sent a package of goodies from Gabrielle Union . They call the line Flawless and that is just it has done made my hair flawless when it was straightened. It has made it silky and soft.  The shampoo and conditioner have a golden color and a great smell. Flawless also works on color treated hair and doesn’t fade it. It not only takes care of the frizzies and heals damaged hair, it also strengthens hair.  It is also cruelty free .

I highly recommend the products. Through the years with wind, and chemicals , and harsh lights, I have had my hair damaged a lot. These products, including the hair repair masque have started to repair some of the damage. Thanks to Gabrielle Union, my hair is back on the road to recovery.

You can find Gabrielle Union’s products at Ulta and online


 

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Fall is a Delicious Season at Smallcakes …..

 Autumn is a feast of the senses. Everything from the colorful leaves to the smells of hot cider and pumpkin latte says that fall is here. Along with those smells, come the special foods of fall . Apples are made into pies and crisps. Pumpkins are carved into scary creatures and now made into everything from cereal to pizza. But with those fall flavors come great treats. Hey! You can indulge because Christmas is around the corner and bathing suit season is a memory.

One of the best places to indulge that sweet tooth is Smallcakes Cupcakery. They have a few locations , we chose to revisit the one on Greenview in Lakeview. It is a popular place for kids and also for families. We were happy to see that they still had the pupcakes and also that they remembered us. What was really cool was that they had our order prepared for us when we arrived. Now to enjoying the tastes of fall.

Jen is mad about the Pumpkin cupcake and its brown sugar cream cheese frosting. It reminded me of pumpkin bread that my mother used to make. It had that special pumpkin taste and it didn’t have too much spice in it. My favorite was the Mississippi Mud one. I am such a choco –holic and this one was perfect for me. The frosting was chock full of pecans, vanilla bean butter cream, and marshmallow. The cake was a luscious chocolate graham cake. Since I come from Ohio, I always associate apples with fall and was also excited with the special Apple Orchard Cupcake. It captured everything that I remember about those Ohio falls growing up.  The cider cake mixed well with the cream cheese and caramel that was on the top. The perfect touch was the apple perched on top as a garnish. We came in for our favorite tastes of fall and were not disappointed. There was even a cupcake that was called Everything Fall and it combined all the best tastes of Autumn.

So if you have a special occasion or a theme party , Smallcakes A Cupcakery and Creamery is the place for that one of a kind cake. Don’t forget, they also have ice cream and their trademark cupcake smashes. They are located at 3054 N Greenview Avenue. 

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 A Little Taste of the Big Apple- Joe’s Tea and Chips 


   

Recently, I visited New York City . While I was there, I got the chance to try some exceptional tea. As you well know, tea is my Kryptonite. Jen has her soda and I have my teas. I only tried one but the great folks at Joe’s Tea sent me a nice little goodie package.  I got to tell you, most of the time I have to have my Snapple, but after tasting Joe’s , well there might be a little bit of competition.

Not as known as Arizona or Snapple, Joe’s comes from Elizabeth , New Jersey.  Twenty years ago, the company decided to sell iced tea out of the back of a Dodge Intrepid. True to its roots, the company has a picture of that truck on each bottle.  Company rep Sally Russell added that their product tends to appeal  to stores seeking products that help differentiate their business. The company sells about twenty beverages. Of course, I could only have a small sample of the teas and lemonades. The drinks have a more pronounced flavor than Snapple.  Joe’s also elevates itself as a special beverage , considerably has a more sophisticated following than the lesser Arizona. The lemonade has that tangy natural lemonade flavor. The peach tea has that sun tea flavor with the richest peach flavor I have tasted. But by far, the one I enjoyed was the half tea and half lemonade. I love what one company calls the “Arnold Palmer”, but Joes has taken the concept to another level. The tea and lemonade are equals and not one flavor outweighs the other.  Joe’s only uses natural ingredients  and cane sugar. That is what makes it special than other drinks.

I also got a chance to try the other product of the company. Encouraged by the sales of their teas, Joe’s Chips was born.  Their taste has that homemade kettle flavor which makes the chips heartier than the usual thin chips that are fried. The chips are full bodied and definitely filling. They are perfect with a sandwich or just by themselves. The sweet potato chips had a pumpkin taste and I couldn’t stop talking about the sweet onion flavor in the sour cream and onion chips. The chips come in the 2 oz and 5 oz sizes and the beverages come in an old fashioned glass bottle.

http://www.joetea.com

http://www.joechips.com

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Bon Jour New York! Sezane Comes to America

It was the perfect time for the French clothing company to come to America. Sezane landed on America’s shores during one of NY’s biggest celebrations of the year, NYFW. Fashionistas made their way to the chic Elizabeth Street location to browse the store and pick up a goodie or two. Sezane has wanted their clothing and merchandise to become an online business and this store was a big part of that. Founder Morgane Sezalory said that the store’s fall collection was  the magic of Paris and the energy of New York.  I think the store captures that spirit. I was not familiar with the brand, but was anxious to see what a real New York fashion boutique looked like. I have to admit that the stores I visited had that NY vibe that Chicago just doesn’t have.

Other  fashionistas stood in line for an opportunity to shop and browse the French boutique. On a particularly warm September  afternoon,  clerks from the store came outside and gave the crowd bottles of Evian water to keep them hydrated. Finally I got the opportunity to walk inside. The clothes were hung on cloth hangers and not bunched together. It was obviously quality merchandise. My only concern is that the beautiful clothes would not fit the large frame of an American woman. It was something to shoot for in the future. I was excited to see some of the little knick knacks on display. One that caught my eye was the adorable little cocktail kits. I was sent one of the same from OPI in one of my little surprise boxes.

 Shoppers enjoyed French pastries and one of the friendly clerks escorted me through the store. This is definitely a collection that I will be watching for as more clothes come out in their Winter Collection due in November.

After taking a few more pictures, the manager gifted me with two souvenirs . She gave me one of the special crème and gold striped Sezane bags. The bag is huge and is perfect for shopping or travel. She also gave me one of the very special bags that were created for the American launch. The large bag proved to be very useful during my stay in NYC. Sezane is located at 254 Elizabeth Street in Manhattan.

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Chicago Gourmet Finds the Right Recipe For a Fun Weekend

This weekend was the annual  Chicago Gourmet. Epicureans and foodies alike converged on Millennium Park to eat and drink food from the finest chefs in town . It was a celebration of everything food and drink. Record breaking temperatures didn’t allow attendees to not enjoy themselves.  Volunteers were more than happy to supply ice cold water to the masses.  

With so much food and drink to enjoy, I started my journey with the friendly gals of Isabelli Media Relations.  Each attendee got a keepsake glass which commemorated the tenth anniversary of Chicago Gourmet.  They also received a sponsor bag from Mariannos with some of the other sponsors products that were featured at the Gourmet. So handy for grocery shopping here in Chicago.

Bon Appetit was where I began my food excursion. They usually have such a nice demo area and presentation. This year , diners could enjoy cool beverages , and fix falafels and garnish Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese. With décor, courtesy of the Venezian of Las Vegas, diners could sit and plan their day. My particular favorite drink was here. Bark Thins had some non alcoholic drinks to serve with their chocolate treats. I fell in love with the Hibiscus Orange and Vanilla Fresca. It reminded me of something that you would get at Argo. I doctored up my macaroni and cheese with shrimp and carmelized onions. Talk about comfort food. I also got a pack of the three cheese Cracker Barrel to take home. They also loaded us up with plenty of Bark Thins as well.

With the ninety degree temperatures, patrons went in search of beverages. There was certainly enough of those around. Ice cold beer, wine, cocktails, and the people at Bai were excited to hydrate the foodies as they stood in lines for food. Grey Goose had a simple cocktail with soda, but with the ice, it cooled off for the long waits. Campari added their contribution with a fruity concoction. The most refreshing drink that I had was made with ginger beer, soda, and a Japanese whisky called Toki. Another one of the exhibitors added to the fun with a frozen rainbow pop up with jello shots in it.

There was quite a lot of to taste and they came from all over. They came from the Burbs, they came from the finest chefs , everywhere from River North to Old Town.  Foreign cuisines were also represented. Japan showed off its culture with sushi from Slurping Turtle and an opportunity to win a trip to Toyko courtesy of Japan Airlines. Their fans proved to be one of the most popular gifts of the afternoon. Italy shined with their excellent wines , pastries, and awesome meatballs. It was so hard to pick just one. I did get a chance to try Hats Off, who the owner described as “the new kids in town.” American classics were represented as well. I had to try my beloved seafood and the chefs who created such masterpieces.  They took such simple fare as salmon with a butternut squash couche and made it into one of the tastiest dishes I ate and it was well worth the wait.

Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ was one of the most popular tents. Patrons could swill beer or whiskey and then munch on BBQ. Heinz let people try their different sauces on pieces of pork.  That wasn’t all, several restaurants brought it on with their BBQ fare. As an Ohio gal, I love my BBQ and my meat. It was no contest for I would pick for favorite. From close by Westmont,  Uncle Bub’s wooed me with their Baby Back Ribs  and Corn Pudding. Needless to say, I will be making the trek for more of this tasty meat and fixins. River North staple, Texas de Brazil wins second prize with me with their steak and couscous salad.  Don’t forget dessert because Chicagoland favorite, Stan’s Doughnuts were represented with some of their  specialties. Sponsors Loacker, Cookie Thins , and several restaurants also tempted with their treats.

You can’t talk Chicago without talking about our World Champion Cubs. The “Friendly Confines” was featured with Cubs cocktails. These are some of the cocktails that fans sip when they are rooting on “our team” .


I have to admit that one of the saving graces for the day was the Media Lounge that was sponsored by the wonderful folks at Choose Chicago. With cooling fans and charging stations, it was the perfect place for journalists and bloggers to rest and network.  Press could rest , make entries on social media, and make friends and new connections.  Overall, it was a day that rated four stars and I can’t wait to come back next year. In the meantime, it’s time to hit the gym.

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